BY RODNEY MUHUMUZA
KAMPALA, Uganda -- Ugandan lawmakers on Friday passed an anti-gay bill that calls for life imprisonment for "aggravated homosexuality," drawing criticism from rights campaigners who called it draconian and unnecessary in a country where homosexuality has long been criminalized.
When the bill was first introduced in 2009, it was widely condemned for including the death penalty, but that was removed from the revised version passed by parliament. Instead it sets life imprisonment as the penalty for a new felony called aggravated homosexuality, according to the office of a spokeswoman for Uganda's parliament.
The bill must be signed by President Yoweri Museveni to become law.
Aggravated homosexuality is defined as a homosexual act where one of the partners is infected with HIV, sex with minors and the disabled, as well as repeated sexual offenses among consenting adults.
The bill also calls for a seven-year jail term for a person who "conducts a marriage ceremony" for same-sex couples.
The passage of the bill makes it "a truly terrifying day for human rights in Uganda," said Frank Mugisha, a prominent Ugandan gay activist, who urged the country's president not to sign the legislation into law.
"It will open a new era of fear and persecution," he said. "If this law is signed by President Museveni, I'd be thrown in jail for life and in all likelihood killed."